The race for the AFC's number one playoff seed and homefield advantage throughout the conference's side of the tournament is still not decided 16 weeks into the NFL season as both the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers sit at 12-3 entering the regular season finale: While the Patriots defeated the Buffalo Bills 37-16 on Sunday, the Steelers won their game against the Houston Texans 34-6 today.
Consequently, the teams will finish as the top two seeds in the AFC and have earned their right for a bye on wildcard weekend. However, who ultimately ends up with the number one seed is still not decided. New England needs a win in week 17 to secure the top playoff spot while Pittsburgh needs both a win and a Patriots loss or tie to overtake the defending world champions in the rankings.
Of course, this means one thing: The Patriots cannot afford to sit their starters for their upcoming game against the New York Jets - at least if they want to give themselves the best chance to earn the number one seed. After all, if New England defeats New York next Sunday, Pittsburgh's game against the 0-15 Cleveland Browns will no longer have any impact on the playoff seeding.
Expect the Patriots therefore to play all of their (healthy) stars against the Jets to try and secure homefield advantage with a victory while simultaneously heading into the playoffs with momentum on their side.